Homeless and housing stress lists up in Derry year-on-year

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Housing Executive (NIHE) Chief Executive Clark Bailie has warned competition from private land bidders is making it difficult to increase public housing stocks while revealing the number of homeless in Derry and Strabane increased again last year.

Mr. Bailie said NIHE is competing for sites and housing with the private sector and that this is creating pressures in housing supply.

In terms of meeting the needs of families in housing stress in the interim, he said: “We are finding it more difficult to source suitable accommodation and its become more expensive.”

Mr. Bailie was in Derry on Tuesday to brief members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on its investment plans for the area.

In a presentation to the committee, Mr. Bailie, indicated that in Derry and Strabane 4,447 people were on the NIHE waiting lists in 2017/18, which represented a two per cent increase year-on-year.

And, of these applicants, 3,279 (74 per cent) were classed as being in housing stress as of March 2018. Mr. Bailie said there had also been a three per cent increase in the number of households presenting as homeless although the NIHE only accepted 1,203 (60 per cent) of these 1,996 households were actually homeless.

NIHE estimated 2,818 new social housing units will be needed in Derry and Strabane over the next five years and Mr. Bailie said 1,305 new social housing units are programmed up to 2021.

Committee chair, Gus Hastings, put it to Mr. Bailie that local representatives’ experiences of housing lists were at odds with those of the NIHE. He said 2,818 new social housing units are needed now, not over the next five years.

Mr. Bailie said the projections were based on tallies of people coming through its offices, which are rigorously assessed, put through a well-tested model, and independently verified.

He acknowledged, however, that underreporting of homelesseness may be an issue.